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We picked up the L’il Pumpkin at school mid-morning. It was going to be a fun day, going to the Children’s Theatre to see The Little Mermaid, then lunch and on to Hannukah. But we had a long holding session in the lobby before the play with a few other schools, so I headed over to the large center table covered with paper, crayons and writing prompts.

“Ariel and her father the King are having trouble understanding each other. What do you wish adults could understand better about children?”

“What do you think,” I asked my little grandson.

“Listening,” he said without missing a beat.

And a light went off; I thought about the term “active listening,” like some ancient artifact that had washed ashore in my brain, back before parenthood. While studying child psychology, I knew even before reading a text that some people are checked out when it comes to their kids, and some are just naturally checked IN.

This was long before we had tiny smart phones to ding and buzz our attention away from our children. Just as we need context to read and comprehend, we need to hear between the lines in order to communicate well with little people. Sure meltdowns can happen, but if we are paying attention, we can usually avoid them.

I was recently involved in a conversation with one of Great Grandma Ada’s friends. He had been a professor at Vanderbilt in his youth, now well into his 90s he liked to paint beautiful, vivid landscapes. I was aware of how effortlessly we spoke, and it’s hard to remember what exactly we spoke about, but it started with Brexit. The rare thing of beauty was that here was a man who was listening – he wasn’t turning his head away, or nodding, or looking at his watch. He was engaging, and our words flew elegantly back and forth.

You don’t have to be a Disney princess to get into hot water with your parents. The L’il Pumpkin told me he was glad Ariel smashed the magic shell containing her voice, thereby breaking the sea witch Ursula’s spell. I thought about the many voiceless women, throughout his/herstory, who were destined to live a constrained life; tied up in apron strings, never learning to drive a car (like Nelly, my foster mother), living in a “Doll’s House” like Nora herself, or Shakespeare’s Rosalind before her.

I hope our grandson grows up to be a good listener, to be a mensch. Watching him skip back to our car, holding Bob’s hand in the parking lot, my heart melted a little.

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Baby it’s Cold

CAUTION:

The following essay may not be suitable for younger or happier readers!

Christmas songs are now being censored, an Ohio radio station has pulled “Baby it’s cold outside” from its skew. This made me feel really old, since I know all the lyrics to this gem, and I thought to myself, “What is this world coming to???” https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46413209

While I was riding back from yet another Target run, I pushed a button on the radio in my car to a station I rarely listen to – MSNBC. I can’t even watch Rachel at night, not if I want to sleep. But I’d rather listen to music while driving, even Christmas music is preferable. Yesterday however I guess I needed a jolt of news. Good news.

The sound was strangely eerie, at first I thought the station must be having technical difficulties. But within a millisecond I was afraid these sounds were muffled gunshots, and I was listening to an active shooter in a mall someplace with a “Go Pro” camera on his head!

Turns out, it was only the sounds of President George HW Bush being laid to rest. The sounds of a talk show on silent.

I agree, he was maybe the last of the great white Republican presidents, a true statesman and WWII vet; and he knew how to get us out of a war and not just into one. Plus, I always loved his wife Babs and her homage to big, cultured pearls. But I was not about to spend hours of my time listening or watching his casket travel to DC.

I dragged in my Target haul, including a pair of Chewy slippers for the L’il Pumpkin, and started making dinner.

Hannukah always sneaks up on me, still coming right on the heels of Thanksgiving is pretty early. Last night’s dinner was a hodge-podge of leftovers that included meatloaf, olives, zucchini and pasta but at some point over the next week I’ll be making latkes! Actually this is a truly Southern holiday because anything fried is appropriate for Hannukah, including donuts!

On our first night of Hannukah we celebrated with friends over bowls of delicious chili and toppings. Our gracious friend’s art-filled home was humming with music and the lilting melody of small children. And although the Great Grands have apparently caught our colds and missed the festivities, we managed to Facetime with Ada for the candle lighting. Her voice had gone down a few octaves, like mine.

Like my spirits. After spending most of the weekend trying to design a holiday card on Shutterfly – that website needs a complete makeover btw – I started thinking that Mr T can indeed shoot a person in cold daylight and get away with it. My first reaction upon hearing of the death of a president was that this will be good for our current president. The media spotlight will pivot to funeral caravans and away from the mounting evidence of T’s Russian connections, of his blatant lies to the American people. That he has been compromised, bought and paid for by Putin.

I know this is the happiest of seasons, so forgive me for being blue today. My head cold is hanging on, and the temps have dropped from near 70 to near 30. I hope you’ve got your cards done, tree up and cookies baked! I hope you will still listen to Frank Loesser’s song about seduction in 1944. “I really can’t stay,” today I’ve got to buy some potatoes for the latkes!

It’s rumored that Mr T will not be allowed to speak at Mr Bush’s funeral…how much are you willing to bet that the gears of justice may just catch up to the presidential puppet-in-chief after the holidays? Would you bet all of your gelt?

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Who is (or was) St Andrew? According to Wikipedia, “He is the patron saint of Cyprus, Scotland, Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople,San Andres Island (Colombia)Saint Andrew (Barbados) and Tenerife.” He was a disciple of Jesus Christ, a fisherman who preached Christianity in Greece, where he was crucified. Of course I think of golf when I hear his name and not my old Catechism.

Today, St Andrew’s Day, November 30, is a bank holiday in Scotland; with Brexit looming larger and Ukraine closing its border to Russian men, not women mind you, we may all want to light a candle to this saint!

Our family will start lighting Hannukah candles on Sunday night. Since we follow a lunar calendar, you never know when this holiday will pop up. The Amazon smile boxes have been piling up all week, and lucky for us there were no “porch pirates” in sight. I’ve always had mixed feelings about online shopping, wanting to patronize local businesses during this critical sales period. But when it comes to toys, Amazon always wins.

The Love Bug just asked the Bride if she believes in Santa Claus. I told her I hope she said “YES!” Because this was the one thing I could never give up for my children, the magical mystery of elves and reindeer. Santa always left a little present for Jewish children, a shining red and green package amidst the blue and white decorations. And since the Bug is about to lose her first tooth, I hope my daughter keeps the Tooth Fairy alive as well.

In fact, I believe the going rate for a tooth is astronomical!

Whether you believe in saints or santas, I believe the L’il Pumpkin will be delighted with his first Hannukah present. You see, he and the Rocker watched two Star Wars movies back to back over Thanksgiving, and as you probably already know, our Star Wars history runs deep. From creating stop-action films in our NJ garage with his toy action figures, to composing music for the new films, our son never ceases to delight and amaze me – just like his red headed nephew! And his new furry friend.

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Borderline

It doesn’t matter who designs a border: Russia divided Berlin; the British carved up the Middle East and India; and we Americans decided that Texas would not become part of Mexico. Imperial powers have drawn lines based on ethnicity and/or religion for centuries, and bloodshed is the usual outcome. This past weekend, as we caught up with post-Thanksgiving errands and pre-Holiday shopping, migrants were tear gassed on our California border.

My immediate thought was “Kent State.”

And inbetween cyber-shopping with a bad head cold, I read that Russia thought this would be the perfect time to seize three Ukrainian ships! It seems that the ships were headed down the Kerch Strait, minding their own business, near the Russian-annexed waters of Crimea…ie Moscow crossed that border awhile ago. Vlad figures Nikki Haley has one foot out the door at the United Nations, and Mr T has his hands full with his paranoia and his “caravan,” so why not now?

I will often turn to poetry when the world is too much with me, and right now “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke fills the bill:

“I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.   
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.   
I learn by going where I have to go.”

And I look at the travel section of the BBC and dream about a great escape. My whole family would like to visit Iceland and I’m not sure why; certainly the stark, brilliant scenery is one thing, but like traveling itself, it’s the people who can delight and inspire you.

There is a certain philosophy in Iceland that is similar to Great Grandma Ada’s mantra, “It will all press out.” Of course you must say this in Yiddish, and since her father was a tailor from Minsk, it makes sense. Icelanders call this , “Betta Reddast” which means basically that everything will work out alright in the end! For a very cold nation, they are an optimistic bunch. http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20180603-the-unexpected-philosophy-icelanders-live-by

And although Iceland is not likely to start a war over a borderline, they do have a natural, geographical phenomenon that is pushing the country apart ever so slowly. Climate change is threatening to submerse major cities around the world, but the good news is that Iceland is growing… if you don’t mind a little earthquake here and there.

The country sits on the rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, and those plates are slowly moving apart, widening Iceland by about 3cm per year and causing an average of 500 small earthquakes every week.

Our beautiful new niece and her family crossed the North Carolina border to visit us Thanksgiving weekend, and I’m hoping my virus didn’t return the favor when they traveled back over the mountains. Can you see the Bat Building in the reflection?

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A Family Feast

Mr T is thankful for something this Thanksgiving. First and foremost his family, and why not? They are feasting at Mar a Lago surrounded by courtiers, in gilded glamour. Then right up there next to family, the Commander in Comedy of the Absurd said he’s thankful for himself!

“When asked what he is most thankful for, Donald Trump says the ‘tremendous difference’ he has made to the country. The US president made the comments after a Thanksgiving phone call with troops in which he compared the migrant caravan in Mexico to the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.

Well for once I agree with him, partially. Family is everything to me. Maybe because i had to share two families as a child? Maybe because I was taught food is love, and so I adored cooking for a big family meal. I still cook for four all the time, so creative recipes for leftovers is my jam. Like this one for a Filipino Turkey Silog (garlic fried rice with eggs) from the NYT: https://cooking.nytimes.com/action=click&module=nav&region=logo&pgType=guide

I’ve always loved Thanksgiving because the Flapper would bake delicious pies, and my cousins came over and we’d run down to the baseball diamond and throw a ball around. This morphed into our second family of friends, the Big Chill Thanksgiving, where everyone cooked something together on the day of Thanksgiving, and then we’d play touch football in the mud, usually.

There was no religion, no prayers, no gifts, no costumes; just really good food, friends and family. A friend said her family tradition was to have creamed pearl onions on the table. When I told the Bride our tradition is to have pickles on the table, she asked if we could have olives too. So now we have a new tradition.

I made a traditional cornbread stuffing, Bob baked the turkey and the Bride did everything else. She bravely hosted 18 people yesterday from age 94 to 4! The Big Chill was represented and the Groom’s parents flew in. The Rocker and Aunt KiKi came from California and this year we met our new cousins from North Carolina, two of the sweetest teenage boys. I was wishing for more kids crawling around under the dining room table, but that will come. And politics never came up!

We didn’t watch football, we watched Star Wars instead. Hope your turkey day was filled with family, laughter and love too!

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Time’s Almost Up

We are counting down to Thanksgiving.

My turkey is defrosting, the corn bread is crumbled and the butternut squash is ready for its close-up. Our Big Chill friends Bernie and Ellen arrived Saturday from a frigid Buffalo and are always eager to help, which means today we make a lasagna! Some people have mac and cheese, we have veggie lasagna.

This is the first time in our history where we are expecting one or two die-hard Republicans at the Thanksgiving table. I guess it was inevitable, right? So I thought I’d share this little interactive ditty from the NYT; you decide if your angry uncle is conservative or liberal and then answer a few questions…one little hint. Don’t talk about the weather, because, well you know.

But before you give it a whirl, go see Bohemian Rhapsody. Going to the movies after Thanksgiving dinner has been a tradition on my side of the family. Bob’s side would put all the doctors in a room and hang up a sign for consultations – Aunt Bert would get her knee checked and the latest rash on cousin Amy would be poked and prodded.

Not to brag, much, but I found out on Instagram that the Rocker just won two more Cleos this year!

One for Bohemian Rhapsody, and one for The Quiet Place. Imagine composing music for a mostly silent horror movie! My guy is rather humble, so I had to Facetime him to ask directly what he was getting congratulated about all over social media. When I think about gratitude tomorrow, I’ll think I’m the luckiest mom in the world. Two adult children, both living authentic, creative and challenging lives.

And I’ll be thanking the Bride for hosting all 20 family members, inbetween saving lives and raising children.

OK, now for your angry uncle Bot, or aunt for that matter. This really does work, that is if you want to keep your turkey day civil. Plus, it’s never too late to learn a few new communication skills. Bon Appetit!

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and I’ve heard that more and more Americans will NOT be serving turkey this year! Millennials seem to be leading the charge/change to a more vegetarian diet, replete with seeds and nuts. Like squirrels.

Well, you can count me out – I’m a purist on “Turkey Day,” and will be assembling my famous corn bread stuffing along with plenty of sides for the main attraction. I tried talking Bob into making ravioli, but he feels his pasta needs a night all its own!

Since when did food become political? Tofurky aside, I remember my first meeting with two vegetarians in college (vegans came into being much later). They were purists, absolutists too, they didn’t wear leather shoes. I looked down at their feet, under the cafeteria table laden with plastic wrappers. Then they told me they wouldn’t use honey, unless they knew the beekeeper! In the 1970s I thought this was absurd, who would mistreat bees?

Ever since, I’ve abhorred anything in the extreme; politics, religion, whatever. I would never cook Kosher because I always ate meat on Friday! I hope you’ve seen that episode of Portlandia, the one where they are ordering dinner in a farm-to-table restaurant and they end up at the farm with the waitress!

Most of you know I’ll eat just about anything, except sushi. Raw sushi, aka bait. But it wasn’t until I read this fascinating article about the intersection of food and politics with a feminist slant that our current obsession with everything gastronomic made sense.

“…the eco-food movement, also known as the eco-gastronomy or alternative-food movement, was busy embracing the war on obesity, joining the front lines of the fight. And food became something to categorize — whole or processed, real or fake, clean or dirty — and to fear. Pretty soon almost every food and health writer I knew was dropping gluten or white sugar from her diet, then bringing it back, then dropping something else. Now that trend has gone mainstream; even my 88-year-old grandmother knows what gluten is and why half her family isn’t eating it on any given day.”  https://medium.com/s/story/how-the-eco-food-movement-mass-markets-eating-disorders-d0302e0e0b85

When we categorize a certain food as “good” or “bad” we are unleashing our inner critic and jumping on the “Oh I only try to eat (insert whatever word you like – whole, healthy, slow) food.” In the article, Virginia Sole-Smith, a self-described recovering food writer, admits that such extreme food restricting is another form of body dysmorphia. Many food writers, and bloggers as magazines and newspapers died, became nutritionists who would try to sell us some image of clean food that is linked to conservation and social justice; not just another vain attempt at losing weight through the latest diet scheme.

We can save the ozone layer if we only give up __________.

Save the ocean, only eat wild caught __________.

Once the organic farming movement joined forces with the health and wellness community, and Oprah took on cattle farmers, we were prime for a revolution. Food could cure just about anything! “The Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in Miami, Florida, which conducts industry research, calculates that the worldwide “wellness economy” is now worth $3.7 trillion.”

The Bride and I were just discussing how easily integrative medicine, with an evidence-based practice, can slide into quackery. This was while I was drinking my chai tea, and after my T’ai Chi class!

The Flapper taught me that food is love… And So It Is… in all its pesky forms. There may be some “Toxic” chemicals you want to clean off veggies before serving – “Toxic” being the “Word of the Year.” And I was so sure it was going to be “Curate;” as in, you don’t have to be a museum director to curate things anymore.

If you haven’t watched “Salt Fat Acid Heat” on Netflix, you must do so NOW!! And for my Tuscany peeps – the first episode is in ITALY!!! https://www.netflix.com/title/80198288

Happy Thanksgiving to all y’all! Here is a picture from Italy which explains why I hope no one in our family will ever be vegan. All hail our Pecorino Cheesemaker

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